Wreck Me: Steel Talons MC (10 page)



Susan sat in her car in front of the ostentatious house and stared at it. She wished she didn’t have to go in. But she’d made the commitment, so she heaved a reluctant sigh and grabbed her makeshift medical bag.


As she approached the structure, which was reminiscent of the White House, she curled her lip in disgust. She’d hated living here as a child, and she hated it now. Her mother had insisted on a house that stood out, and she’d gotten her wish, setting the family in probably the most unimaginative mansion she could find.


Susan knocked on the huge carved wooden door, something she doubted most people did when returning ‘home,’ and half-expected a butler in a shiny tuxedo to answer, bowing his bald head as he admitted her. Instead, her mother opened the monstrosity. Susan hadn’t thought the tiny woman capable of moving something that large and solid.


“Hello, darling!” her mother gushed, spreading her arms, bracelets jingling. She hugged Susan as if nothing was wrong and wore a bright smile.


Susan patted her mother’s back with her free hand and backed away as quickly as possible. “How is Dad this morning?”


Her mother’s face fell into a mask of pity. “Oh, darling, I’m so worried!” She moved aside, and Susan finally stepped inside the marble foyer. Her mother’s voice echoed off the empty walls and vaulted ceiling. “He didn’t eat last night, and he was in so much pain. He’s done nothing but doze this morning since breakfast, and his breathing is raspy.”


Susan traipsed after her mother, whose hands fluttered as she walked quickly.
Ever the drama queen
. They climbed the winding staircase to the master suite, and Susan stopped dead in her tracks.


That couldn’t be her father lying in the oversized California king bed. Amidst luxurious piles of pillows, the man in the bed was gaunt, pale, and seemed frail enough to break a bone just by turning his head. The man Susan remembered was large, muscled, and intimidating.




He turned to look at her, coughing, and she could see the yellow tint of his skin when she approached. Jaundice? She swung her head around to scowl at her mother. “How long has he been sick?”


She recognized her mother’s guilt instantly as the woman stuttered and refused to meet her gaze. “I’ve told him for over a week now he should see a doctor. But he insists he doesn’t trust any of them.”


Her father laughed behind her, the sound rattling his lungs.“They’re all drunks,” he wheezed. “They’re going to tell me it’s because I drink too much. It’s compromised my immune system, and I just can’t seem to kick the damn cold. That’s all, sweetcheeks.”


Horrified and angry, Susan shook her head and addressed her mother in a cold tone. “It’s not even nine in the morning. Are you really serving him booze at this time of day?”


“It eases his pain, darling. I—”


“You’re an enabler,” she interrupted. Her brow wrinkled as she studied her father again. “Just because you made mistakes doesn’t mean all doctors are going to risk their careers like you did, Dad. You need to see a doctor. This is more than just a cold.”


He waved a hand in dismissal. “Write me a prescription, then. Give me some antibiotics and a couple of pain pills. I’ll be just fine.” His breath smelled like a distillery, stale liquor spilled on concrete floors and never mopped.


Susan blanched. “Christ, Dad, you need food, not alcohol.” Her rage settled deep in her chest. She would have thought that losing his license would teach him a lesson, but apparently, Dr. Steve MacGregor was his own man and intended to drink himself to death. Or maybe he truly believed he was invincible. It wouldn’t surprise her. “I can’t write you a prescription, Dad. I’m not a doctor yet.”
And may never be.
It was this behavior precisely that made her a joke in the medical community. Like father, like daughter. How many times had she heard that over the past few years?


“Isn’t there something you can do?” her mother asked. “He would be so embarrassed if he had to go to the doctor in this condition.”


Susan scoffed. “He wouldn’t be in this condition if it weren’t for you. Can’t you see what’s happening here? He drinks his meals, he’s lost too much weight, and there’s something desperately wrong with his health. Whether or not that’s related to the drinking is irrelevant. I can’t help him because I don’t know what’s wrong. We have to get him into the ER.”


She watched her mother’s expression shift to anger. “You think this is my fault? All I’ve ever done is take care of everyone! And in return, I become a horrible, sadistic person who ruins everyone’s lives.”


“Don’t play the victim here, Mother. And don’t pretend we’re talking about anything else. I’m only focused on one thing right now, and that’s the fact that Dad has to be treated or he’ll die, right here in this bed.” She was sick  of her mother’s selfishness and self-absorbed attitude. Everything in the world revolved around her, and if attention was focused anywhere else, she’d find a way to draw it back to her. “Now, can you help me get him to my car? You don’t even have to come with us if you’re too embarrassed to be seen with him.”


But her mother just crossed her arms and turned away. “I’m not going to help you. My sciatica will act up, and then I’ll be the one in the hospital.”


Susan’s father flopped one hand on top of hers. “It’s fine, honey. I don’t want to go to the hospital. I’d rather just die here. Pour me another finger of whiskey, and I’ll drink until I’m not breathing anymore. Then your mother can call for the coroner to carry me, and neither one of you have to hurt your backs.”


Furious, Susan shoved her father away, stood, and stormed out of the room. She reached in her pocket as she walked away. Her mother skittered along behind her. “What are you doing?”


“I’m calling 9-1-1.” Susan was going to get her father the help he needed, regardless of his indifference and her mother’s neurotic behavior.


“Don’t you dare! I don’t want those people in my house!”


Susan whirled, and her mother nearly crashed into her. “
Those people
? I hate to tell you this, Mom, but I’m one of those people. And it’s my duty as a paramedic, not to mention as his daughter, to get him the help he needs. If you get in the way, I’ll lock you in a guest room until it’s done.”


Her mother huffed and puffed and made indignant noises but finally just went into the bathroom and slammed the door without another word. The operator answered, and Susan asked for an ambulance, reciting the address, as well as her credentials. The bus arrived in less than ten minutes, and it took Susan and the two large men to move her intoxicated father to the gurney, where they strapped him down tight.


Her mother came out at the last minute in a full face of makeup and with her hair done. She climbed into the back of the ambulance to accompany her husband to the hospital. Just before the doors closed, she shot Susan a hateful glare, and Susan turned away, closing up the house and climbing in her own car. There was no way she was going to stay at the house, especially since her mother would be calling Emma, Susan’s sister, any time now.


No, she’d go to the hospital to make sure her father was checked in, see that the doctor in charge knew the circumstances, and then she would leave. She had to work tonight, and she was already missing a class today that would leave her behind the curve. It was the last thing she needed. She’d check in later, when there were some test results or some kind of news to give her.


Instead of going home, she went to the station, deciding she’d rather sit there, with some of the firemen who actually liked her than stew for the next three hours at home alone until her shift started.




Nine men filed into the Court Room, as the Steel Talons called it, and Jim took his seat on the far side, tossing his feet up onto the old oak table that dominated the room. As he looked around, he saw faces as grim as his own staring back. Everyone except Ari felt the same sense of foreboding hanging over their heads, and Jim certainly didn’t like where the club was headed.


If Ari hadn’t insisted on going into enemy territory out of greed and had listened to some of the ideas the rest of the brothers had for new investments, they wouldn’t be in this position. But as it was, their fate rested in the hands of Rechoncho and all of his Diablos Blancos minions. Ten percent of the take wasn’t nearly enough to satisfy anyone undertaking the risk they were asking. Jim would have snubbed his nose instantly at such an arrangement, and he knew it had been a mistake to send Sauza back to ask his president to agree to the terms.


Half a million dollars in counterfeit money, every two weeks, with the feds already looking for the culprits, was far too risky to make a measly ten percent for making the run. If Jim was in the Diablos’ position, he would demand twenty. But Ari was a hard son of a bitch, set in his ways, and Jim wasn’t the only one who thought he was purposefully trying to start a war.


Meeks closed the door behind him, and all nine of them were seated. Ari cleared his throat, and Jim lit a cigarette. He was going to need the nicotine to keep his peace through this meeting.


Ari leaned forward in his chair and said, “We all know why we’re here. Those damn Diablos demanded some kind of payoff if we’re going to be running in and out of their territory.”


It was a warped perspective of the truth at best, and Boxer, who sat to Jim’s left, put a warning hand on Jim’s arm to stop him from arguing. Ari continued, “I’m taking advantage of the situation and trying to ease our own risk factor. I told them that, if they’d meet us halfway on every run and take the unfinished product the rest of the way, then come back and return the completed product at the same halfway point, they would earn themselves ten percent of the cash. Sauza offered a little resistance, but he’s taking it home to Rechoncho, and I’m hoping the man sees reason.”


“And if he doesn’t?” Tipper asked. He was a small man, and he didn’t say much, but he was smart, and Jim could see the wheels spinning in the man’s head. Tipper already knew the answer.


Ari spread his hands wide, as if the outcome was completely beyond his control. “I’m doing everything I can here. But I’m afraid we’re going to have a war on our hands.”


“Couldn’t we just hear them out and find a happy medium?” This came from Donnie, who didn’t usually speak up. It surprised Jim. “I mean, we’re bankrolling already, and it’s going to get better now, with the smaller bills we can run anywhere. How bad could their demands really get?”


Ari’s brows knit together, and Jim swore he smelled sulfur on the man’s breath. “You know the policy, Donnie. If we give an inch, they’ll come back and ask for a mile. We can’t start negotiating now.”


Jim scoffed. “That’s funny, because if we’re going to survive a war with Rechoncho’s men, we’ll have to negotiate with the Diamondbacks to get some firepower.” The Diamondbacks ran weapons out of Wyoming. The distance between the two clubs kept them from rubbing each other the wrong way, but the Talons had never particularly been friendly with the militant group, either.


“Better them than the Devils,” Weasel grunted as he twirled his scraggly beard around his finger. “And if we tell them why we need their help, I bet they give us a major discount. They hate anyone that’s not white or straight.”


“Exactly,” Ari agreed. “So, since I’m told we’re better off as a democracy, I’m putting this to a vote. We got two options. We can listen to the counter-offer and consider it, or we can make a trip to Wyoming and see about bonding with the Aryan brotherhood out there.”


Jim said nothing. The last vote would be his own; that was his tactic. He sat on the far side of the table, beside Ari, so he could get a feel for what the rest of the group wanted before casting his ballot. He didn’t just listen to the votes; he watched his brothers’ faces for signs of concern.


Now, he paid close attention as the vote went around the table. By the time it was his vote, there were already six in favor of working with the Diamondbacks, and Jim’s vote wouldn’t matter. With all eyes on him, he shook his head. “I don’t want a war. My vote doesn’t matter now, but I would vote for a truce with the Diablos.”


Only Tipper and Donnie had agreed, which meant the decision was made, but he knew damn well that Boxer and Willie would have voted the same, if they’d gone with their intuition. That would have turned over the vote, but Ari would’ve made their lives hell for it. Instead, Ari stood with a triumphant grin and stuck out his chest like some puffed-up rooster.


Jim wasn’t sure when he’d started to hate the club president. In his younger days, he’d had a lot of respect for Ari. But somewhere along the way, Jim had grown up, and he’d seen too much of the world to believe that Ari had their best intentions at heart. Greed was his game, and eventually, it was going to get them all killed.


He walked toward the back of the clubhouse and out the back door, lighting another smoke, and Boxer joined him, saying, “That went well.”


Jim laughed. “You are a sarcastic son of a bitch, aren’t you?”


Boxer lit up his own cigarette with a shrug and said, “We got an extra twenty years out of the bargain. If we die tomorrow, we can at least be grateful for that. Without Foreman, we’d both probably have done something stupid like overdose as teenagers. At least we got to be adults. Hell, you even got to fall in love once.”


Jim nodded. Foreman – Aaron Morgan – had actually been the foreman on the construction crew both his and Boxer’s dads had worked for. When the boys were twelve, their fathers had been working on a job site, up on a beam four stories high. The beam had fallen, landing both men on the ground, and several steel posts had fallen on the pair, crushing them. Foreman had seen Jim and Boxer as troubled youths, with mothers too overcome by the loss of their husbands to be bothered with raising boys on the cusp of puberty, and he’d stepped in as a father figure.


“I guess we did,” Jim agreed. He hesitated, remembering the day Foreman had brought them to the clubhouse for the first time. “Do you ever regret joining the MC?” Jim asked.


“Hell, no!” Boxer’s response was enthusiastic. “It’s the best I could hope for. I didn’t do so well in school, bro. You know that. And I’m not exactly Mr. Charming, but I get all the women I want.” He laughed. “I remember the look on your face, Wade. We walked in here, and some chick with these giant tits was sitting on Ari’s lap. He had his face buried in them. You looked like that wolf in the cartoon with your eyes bugging and your tongue dangling six feet out of your mouth.”


Jim laughed, too. “I was fourteen years old. I’d never seen a pair of knockers before, except my own mother’s.” From that point on, there’d been no turning back. While he and Boxer hadn’t attended the big parties or ridden with the club, they’d been junior members. They’d had jobs, earned money to support themselves and their mothers, and grown into men with the club.


“The club is all I got, Wade,” Boxer said, somber now. “This is all I’ve had since my mom died. I don’t have any other family except you and these brothers. Even Foreman’s gone.”


Jim nodded. “I know that. We’re both alone here.”
Except for Susan.
The thought ran through his mind unbidden. He pushed it away; he wouldn’t rely on Susan as family. They would never be that close. They led separate lives that would come together once in a while for a mutual release. He stood next to the person he trusted most in the world, and the others on that short list were somewhere in the building behind him.


Boxer turned to face him, eyes burning with conviction. “The only difference is, I would die for this club, Wade. That’s how committed I am. I’m not sure you’re there anymore.”


Jim didn’t want to admit it, but Boxer was right. There had been a time when his loyalty to the Steel Talons was that deep, but now, he wasn’t sure anymore. Ever since Trina died, he’d questioned his commitment. He wanted more than just brothers. He couldn’t tell Boxer or anyone else the truth, but he wanted passion and tenderness, something to counteract the hard, cold demeanor he encountered here on a daily basis. Tossing his butt, he smiled. “Come on, Boxer, we’re brothers more than anyone else here. I would do anything to have your back.” That was the most he could say and still be honest.


“I know that,” Boxer said, turning to go back inside. Jim stared after him, wondering what was going through his best friend’s head. He had a suspicion Boxer was preparing to die in the war that was inevitable, and Jim didn’t like it. He had to keep a positive outlook, maintain some hope of making it out alive, and that was going to be really hard if Boxer couldn’t keep his head straight.


Concerned but determined, Jim followed Boxer’s trail, heading to the bunk to get some rest. He hadn’t slept last night after he’d left Susan’s house, and he was dead tired. He’d need his rest if he intended to make the run back to Diablos territory and then another to Wyoming.


Other books

Hover Car Racer by Matthew Reilly
Reality TV Bites by Shane Bolks
Manslations by Mac, Jeff
After Purple by Wendy Perriam
Vicious Cycle by Terri Blackstock